News / Africa

    Nigerian Bombing Suspect Visited U.S. City in 2008

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Limited details have emerged in recent days about a visit to Houston, Texas by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in August, 2008. It’s not clear if U.S. investigators were tracking the suspect at the time or whether or not they failed to detect any radical ties that should have enabled them to elevate Abdulmutallab’s status on a U.S. terror watch list to strip him of his visa or place him on the critical no-fly list. 
     

       
    Nigerian-born journalist Chido Nwangwu publishes USAfrica’s Class magazine and runs the USAfrica Online website from Houston, which is home to more than 100-thousand Nigerian expatriates living in the United States.  He says that the man who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 near Detroit on Christmas Day spent his time in Houston pursuing religious studies at an islamic institute there.
       
    “He attended an Islamic education program at the Al Maghrib Institute in Houston.  That is the only knowledge of public information that we all have of his reasons for visiting here,” he said.
       
    U.S. officials have confirmed they are looking into Abdulmutallab’s travels since the June 2008 visa he was issued, but the FBI has refused comment. Publisher Nwangwu says he was unable to confirm whether investigators were on the suspect’s trail almost one and a half years ago. He claims no insight into whether those who may have been tracking the Nigerian had cause to tie him to radical influences that could have raised his profile to refuse entry into the United States the following year. 
     

       
    In addition, Nwangwu says there were no signs if a recent police tip by Abdulmutallab’s Nigerian father, former First Bank of Nigeria chairman Umaru Abdul Mutallab, had been heeded by security officials in Houston.  The senior Abdul Mutallab has been widely praised for his courage in coming forward to sound an alert to U.S. officials.  He is expected to travel to the United States this week to attend his son’s arraignment, likely on January 8 in Detroit, Michigan
     

       
    “Of course there were the ties with Al Maghrib Institute, which has offices in London and Canada.  My office, U.S. Africa, also attempted to speak with the other branches of Al Maghrib in order to understand why the young man did not do his studies in London.  I also asked about Houston, who paid or who registered him for the courses.  There are so many questions.  Who facilitated his movements? Who picked him up from his hotel?  Who dropped him off? Where did he have his lunch during the training?” asked Nwangwu.
       
    On Monday, U.S. officials placed tighter new security measures on air travelers from 14 countries considered to be added security risks.  Nwangwu admits the guidelines are adding concern among Nigerians in his community who frequently travel back and forth to Africa.  He says they are disappointed that the acts of one reckless individual can slur the international image of an entire nation.  But he understands the need for U.S. officials to do all they can to protect the security of Americans.

    “It will not be unrealistic, but it would be unfair to group the whole community.  The community abhors such violence.  The community abhors what I call mechanized bigotry.  And it’s understandable to look for those who make trouble or seek to inflict terror, to kill people of all faiths, of all communities.  The point also is that if he had unleashed a plot that was concluded successfully, Nigerians on that flight would have also been killed,” noted Nwangwu.
       
    One official trying to get to the bottom of the investigation is one of two Houston African-American members of the U.S. Congress.  Nwangwu says that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, shares concerns for the safety of all Americans, including the thousands of foreign-born people living and working in the Houston area.  Nwangwu also plans to meet Tuesday with Houston’s other African-American U.S. congressman, Rep. Al Green.
       
    “On an intellectual level, it is very wrong to engage in group profiling or to band everybody in one basket,” he says. 
       
    “In terms of the operational reality of saying that if a flight or certain travelers are coming from any place where there is potential danger, they should take a second look for the safety of everyone -- that is not too much to ask.  It is an entirely different matter. I vehemently oppose anyone saying that Nigerians are terrorists.  No, Nigerians are not,” he observed.
       
    Although Umar Abdulmutallab’s mission originated in Ghana, Ghana was not among the countries cited Monday as U.S. security risks.  Journalist Nwangwu acknowledges that flying from Ghana to Nigeria reduced Abdulmutallab’s holdover at Lagos’ Murtalla Muhammed Airport from two hours to a 30-minute holdover and suggests that other countries outside this week’s U.S. restrictions also pose threats of international terrorism to American cities.
       
    “Egypt holds a significant number of radical Islamic zealots.  (Ayman) Al-Zawahiri, one of the twin leaders of al-Qaida, is an Egyptian.  There are radical elements in Egypt.  They were not listed.  So the Obama administration needs to look a little further.  I know they are being sensitive to the fact that the young man was in a transition movement,” he explained.
       
    To counter tighter restrictions, Nwangwu points out that what he calls “evil geniuses” will continue to devise creative, innovative ways to get around the regulations.  The Houston journalist says he supports international efforts to plug the loopholes. But also recalling that the September, 2001 attacks all originated within the United States, he contends that there is no substitute for stepped-up vigilance on all possible fronts.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora